Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1 Review
Have you ever run across a game that somehow beyond any reason is still good, but one cannot understand how it could have been made in the first place? Imagine the pitch for Life is Strange BTS for a moment.
In some office at Square Enix...
"Hey, you know that really awesome game Life is Strange, that everyone liked and got great reviews?!"
"We should make another one!!!"
"Without the main character..."
"Oh, and it will be a prequel first instead of a sequel..."
"Oh and since the original team will be busy making an actual sequal, lets have this prequel be made by a completely unrelated and relatively untested team."
"OHHH!!! and the best part! No time travel at all!"
"Lets remove all world ending consequences, murder mystery, time travel, all that awesome stuff, and make a cartoon about teenagers skipping school and playing D&D!!!"
I absolutely loved the first Life is Strange. It is an absolute work of gaming art worthy of anyone's top 10 list. The story and experience was truly remarkable. The emotions and twists were shocking on a level one must mentally prepare for ahead of time. You probably didn't see the true villain coming, and the ending is enough to lose sleep over. When I found out that a new Life is Strange game was being made, I was obviously ecstatic. Without spoiling anything, the way the first one ended, a true sequel would be very difficult. While we found out further, a sequel with new characters is still coming, a PREQUEL Life Is Strange game would be coming first, and that it would be a return to Arcadia Bay.
Then came the announcement that it would feature no Time Travel...
When I heard that, I was confused. Time Travel was so integral to the original story that to make a new game without that mechanic was one of the most odd things I have heard. To try to pout that into words, this is like making a Halo game without both guns or aliens. Despite how strange it was for a game to remove its core mechanic, I was still eager to play and be back in the game universe. What finally arrived was one of the most unusual gaming experience I've had to date. The game does not have its original main character, but this time is from Chloe's perspective (the side character from the original). The game has no time travel, no murder mystery, and no world ending consequences so far. The game so far is literally about being a bratty teenager who sneaks out and skips school. There's a twenty minute scene where the characters play a table top role playing game. The teenagers skip school and go to a park. You argue with people. If this game had been explained to me without the context of being in the universe of LIS, I would have guessed it to be super boring. Nothing really happens in this game. It is literally a "bad teenager simulator". The game should not have made it past its pitch. The game is a skeleton of its source material. Yet, somehow beyond any reason or justification it PLAYS WELL. It was still somehow fun. It was still enjoyable and engaging. This game defies review and defies expectation. Everything that should make it good is removed: stakes, mechanics, mystery. etc... Yet, somehow the game still manages to be great. I will say that one should definitely play LIS before LIS:BTS to better appreciate the world and characters. Without the context of the world from the original LIS, I could see how the game would be lost on someone. Only play LIS:BTS if you like heavily story centric games or character driven stories. Do not expect any really crazy twists or anything special to happen. Just expect to play some D&D, walk around and look at stuff, and somehow beyond explanation still enjoy yourself.